Serbia welcomes arms dealer sanctioned by US
31 Aug 2020

Most modern battlefields feature Slobodan Tesic’s merchandise. Since the end of the Yugoslav wars this Serbian arms dealer has played the middleman between post-Communist regimes with gluts of weaponry and failing states slipping into conflict.

He has taken ammunition from Belarus to Libya and sold Serbian sniper rifles in Yemen. His deals with Liberia while it was under an arms embargo landed him on a UN sanctions list from 2003 to 2013. In December 2017 the US sanctioned him, describing him as “among the biggest dealers of arms and munitions in the Balkans”.

That should have barred him, at least, from legitimate weapons sales but documents obtained by The Times show that Mr Tesic, 55, continues to export weapons with licences issued by the Serbian government in return for favours to President Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party, raising questions about an EU candidate and US ally.

The $7 million deal in question is a shipment of 32,000 land mines, manufactured by a Serbian state company and delivered to Armenia by Vectura Trans, a company owned by Mr Tesic, in two tranches in 2019 and 2020.

In the meantime Mr Tesic donated tractors and a passenger van to the Serb community in Kosovo, where Belgrade is trying to expand its political influence. The Serbian justice minister was present at the handover of the gifts.

Ownership of Vectura Trans was transferred to Milan Subotic, an associate, after the US imposed sanctions and Mr Subotic’s name appears on the 2018 contract for the Armenian sale.

In a letter in mid-2019, however, the US embassy in Belgrade told Ivica Dacic, Serbia’s foreign minister, that Mr Tesic had broken sanctions and voiced concern at his “potential influence over Serbia’s export control system”. Mr Subotic and eight other associates of Mr Tesic were added to the US sanctions list in December with three companies.

By Milivoje Pantovic and Hannah Lucinda Smith, The Times, 31 August 2020

Read more at The Times

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